Musings of a Bellytalker
By David Malmberg


Do you remember the events that led up to your being bitten once and forever with the art of ventriloquism?  Each has his own story to tell, and yet the story is universal isn’t it?  For this generation it was Lester, Bergen, Winchell, Wences, Lewis, Weston, Ketch and others. 

 

As I think of my own journey, I remember, like many, the impression that Winchell made on me in those early days of television.  I thought Jerry was real, but a paraplegic.  I was drawn to him like the proverbial moth to the flame.  As I became aware I wanted more than anything to be able to ‘throw my voice.’  Perhaps it was the desire to accomplish something that my friends could not do.  But, this was a day before computers, the internet and instant information.  I did not know where to look to find out about this fascinating folk art.

 

But, serendipity can play a role in such yearnings. And, as time passed, this world was slowly, if not accidentally revealed to me.  Finding a copy of ‘Practical Ventriloquism,’ by Ganthony, and then adding to the collection Winchell’s ‘Ventriloquism for fun and profit,’ Olin’s book, Vereker’s book, (not to mention Van Rensselaer’s) all added to this journey of discovery.

 

Discovery?  What about the first time you realized that you ‘had it.’  You ‘had’ the distant voice.  You could create the illusion and the opportunities that opened themselves to you at the moment of that awareness.   

 

Finis Robinson played a role.  Discovering a small ad with a picture of the Waterloo, LA store that had a sign that said:  “The End of Gloom.”  Getting the Robinson catalog and being amazed at all the different figures that could be made and then being outrageously intrigued to see a picture of his daughter in which ‘ jaw lines’ had been drawn on either side of her mouth!

 

And then there were the other ventriloquists.  Hearing a recording of The Great Lester and trying my best to imitate his telephone voices.  Hearing ‘stars’ of ventriloquism on a 78 rpm record where there were snatches of John W. Cooper, Fred Ketch, Bruno, and Phil D’Rey!   And of course, every week when the TV Guide arrived, scouring the variety shows (Sullivan, Hollywood Palace etc) looking for any appearances by ventriloquists.  And, never missing a single one of them. 

 

And of course, there was the Vent-O-Gram.  Waiting for each issue to arrive, mimeographed and stapled together.  Reading every article over and over again and when finished, anticipating the next issue.  How did I find out about such things?  I don’t recall, only that a subscription did find it’s way to my door step.

 

I remember the day I sent a publicity shot of myself to WS Berger.  I was just a kid, but he wrote me back and assured me that the photo would find it’s way into Vent Haven.  In his letter, he recommended Paul Stadleman’s book.  That prompted a telephone call to Paul and resulted in an invitation from him to stop by and say hello if I were ever in Chicago.  I never did, but the invitation demonstrated enormous graciousness from him to a runny nosed kid learning ventriloquism.

 

As time passed, ventriloquists did come through town.  Bergen as well as did Dick Weston.  And DeMar.  Well, Bill  actually stayed and I had the pleasure of seeing my first Marshall (Bill’s Chuck Norwood) and watching him create his ‘Feldon the Frog’ routine, which wowed folks at the conventions years later. ( Bill, if you’re reading this, hello, it’s been a long time.) 

 

All of these musings and more are firmly locked in my memory now.  When I think of these things, it is like being a collector of ephemera.  It takes me back there emotionally.  And those are very fond memories indeed. 

 

The art of ventriloquism is no different than any other art form.  No different than the nobility of the painter, the musician, or the dancer.  Ventriloquism is an art form with all the intricacies of all the fine arts.  It is a shallow person indeed who diminishes this.  So, may I be so bold as to say:  “carry on.”  Practice, perform, teach, so that those who come after shall continue the legacy of those that have gone before. 

 

Salute!

 

David Malmberg

www.davidmalmberg.com

 

David Malmberg Ventriloquist